Repeatedly documented, but rarely cited in the current kerfuffle over raising the debt ceiling are two things:
- 1. Ronald Reagan “repeatedly signed deficit-reduction legislation in the 1980’s that melded annual tax increases with spending cuts just as President Barack Obama is now asking Congress to consider.” from POLITICO via Steve Benen, here, and
- Congress raised the debt ceiling under George Bush seven times – every time he asked.
. . . it’s also worth noting that the conservative Republicans of the 1980s were absolutely certain that Reagan’s policy would destroy the economy, and as part of the right’s unyielding track record of failure, they were wrong.
The larger point, though, is that when the 40th president sat down with lawmakers to work on debt reduction, he accepted as a given that the agreement would include a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The debate would be over the ratio. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons Reagan ended up raising taxes in seven out of the eight years he was in office. (Remember, “no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan.)
Republicans in Congress balked in 1983. Reagan wrote to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn) about their intransigence. From the letter:
The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar.
Now Baker was a Senator I admired for his moderation, and many Republicans in the Congress then may have been right about the dangers of the debt. But that is not the point. Then, as now, they were ignoring the causes and resisting action on the consequences.
More from Benen:
Mike Huckabee recently said, “Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a nearly identical take last year, arguing Reagan “would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”
It’s also worth noting that the GOP never shut down the government when Republican presidents Reagan or Bush or Bush were in office. They did it only when the Democrat Clinton was in office. And now they threaten to do it to this Democratic president.
For the good of the country of course.